Ryan Gullahorn’s front porch is the first hint that he is a man of paradox. An oversized stuffed ET with a red business tie welcomes visitors in a white rocking chair. ET’s doe eyes gaze up at an eclectic collection of paintings hung beside the front door: a French courtesan in a blue silk suit, a faded old farmer, and a white canvas with crimson paint dripping down like blood. This strikes me as a surprising collection for a guy who has a tribal tattoo on his left shoulder, a Crossfit gym in his backyard, and a sweating can of Lone Star in his hand.
The paradox continues inside the 1929 Bouldin bungalow he bought after the original owner—one Mrs. Kelso—died in 2010. “It’s a man cave!” I say as Ryan opens the front door and ushers Jeff and I into his pine paneled living room. At first glance it does have all the accouterments of a standard man cave: the flat screen in the bathroom (you can watch baseball in the shower), the taxidermy collection (the first buck he shot as a 12 year old, flying squirrel, and his grandpa's pike), and a liquor cabinet fit for Mad Men (Kentucky straight Bourbon is the poison of choice).
But Ryan’s home also reminds me—strangely—of the cozy, cookie-baking grandma I never had. The Lone Star posters and shot glasses are mixed in with an eclectic range of vintage garage sale pieces and sentimental knick-knacks (including a painting by his grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s). Ryan watches baseball on a massive flat screen in his favorite rocking chair. His retro, dandelion yellow kitchen is lined with cupcake salt and peppershakers, a vintage Better Home and Gardens “Best Buffets Cookbook,” and a Cabbage Patch Kid oven mitt. His Crossfit gym where he flips tractor tires is lined with artsy mannequin legs.
The kitchen, in particular is a litmus test for potential romantic interests. “They either hate it or love it,” laughs Ryan. A few of Ryan’s past girlfriends have opinions on other things in the house too: ghosts. “Something I think the walls are alive,” Ryan tells Jeff after I’ve gone home. He runs his hands over the swirling wood grain and mentions that two ex-girlfriends have seen old Mrs. Kelso walking down the creaky attic staircase where her son Gordon used to sleep in the 1940s. (Jeff slept in Gordon’s old attic cubby. He didn’t get a night visit from Mrs. Kelso, but he did hear a series of odd knocks and thumps throughout the night.)
If there are ghosts lingering in any of the neighboring houses, Ryan wants to keep them around. He’s lived on Annie Street for 14 years. He knows all the neighbors—and their houses. At dusk the three of us go on a rambling walk down the street. He’s fiercely protective of the older homes and hopes, like his place, they can be “rehabbed” instead of razed to make room for the boxy, modern houses popping up across the neighborhood.
“How much would someone have to pay you to sell your house?” asks Jeff.
Ryan shakes his head. There’s no price. “This is my street,” he shrugs. “Annie Street.”
Photography by Jasmine "Bobby" Oliver